Cap: "People are validly concerned [about Dota dying]"

    Reading time  ~16  mins

    In the second part of BLIX’s interview with caster Austin "Cap" Walsh, he covers the difference in talent quality between Dota 2 and other esports titles, the future of pro Dota with the end of the Dota Pro Circuit, the sentiment of Dota potentially "dying" and much more.

    Comparing Dota and other esports talent-wise

    Pedro Romero, BLIX: How do you view the difference in talent quality with Dota compared to other games?

    Austin "Cap" Walsh: I think the greatest strength of Dota talent is that we're all pretty good natured and there's very little drama. And of course, there's still drama and you get a group of human beings interacting with each other for a long period, but there's very little drama and is much lower than other talent scenes have. I always call my Dota colleagues my family because I really do feel that way and it's so many of them.

    I would say the biggest weakness, for Dota talent, is just not at the same level of competition to push against each other and drive each other in that regard, right? And when you hate a co-worker, you really want to do better than them and I think that's something that Dota talent are very cooperative and maybe a little less competitive. There's a lot less willingness to be heels and to say wild s**t because the Dota community is also incredibly judgmental in that regard. You really have to be a special kind of person to get away with it.

    Kyle [Kyle Freedman] was equally beloved and hated for that fact. He was one of the only people who is willing to go out there and say some crazy s**t and have people react to it. You need people like that to make things interesting so a lot of people sometimes get caught up in wanting to be right for the community, but the outspoken minority of Reddit that is like, "oh this guy was wrong about this stuff and he sucks." Just because you're wrong about something, as in a prediction or an analysis or something, doesn't actually mean you're good or bad talent. That's not actually the job.

    The job is, first and foremost, entertainment so how you deliver your analysis is just as important as how good or bad your analysis is. That's because, also, you're not working solo. On a panel, you're working together with other people so when you say something, it gives other people the chance to respond. If you say something that they think is incorrect, it creates conflict and creates something interesting that people want to be able to watch. And I think that's probably the biggest weakness of Dota talent is we're just too damn nice and friendly.

    BLIX: Is there someone that is remotely similar to what Kyle was back then?

    Cap: I mean, ppd [Peter Dager] was the first one to come on to do some talent work and did that. I think that Kyle was pretty special in that regard because he was very charismatic and people really loved him. His coworkers really loved him for the work that he did while simultaneously shaking things up and making interesting moments. As for anyone similar in the present day?

    BLIX: Yeah in the present day.

    Cap: Yeah, not quite to be honest. Sheep makes things more interesting for sure and I think she's one of the people who's a little bit more willing to go out there, but she doesn't do it to Kyle level. She does it in her own way that is also very endearing. So yeah, there's probably nobody out there just yet, but some pro player will eventually replace that. That's because part of it is that you need to be a former pro player and have to have the trust of the community and they have to be willing to buy in. If you don't have any standing to make some of these predictions, people are just like, "Oh, this guy's a moron" unless you can back it up with some accolades, right?

    I mean, the reason that people like Shaq and Charles Barkley can do what they do is because they were, at once upon upon a time, the best at what they did. So when they talk some b******t out of their mouths, which is what they do all the time for entertainment, they have some standing to be able to do there and say those kinds of things. Somebody will do it but I just don't know who that pro player is gonna be. I mean, part of it is the pro players need to actually retire so...

    BLIX: Then I gotta ask who's a player that you have in mind that you wish would take that sort of avenue.

    Cap: I've always held Insania [Aydin Sarkohi] as one of the best talents when we've gotten to work with him. Unfortunately, Liquid has been a little bit too successful so we haven't been able to work with him as much but I think he will be by far one of the biggest boons to the talent scene when he retires. He doesn't fill the role like the one we're talking about with Kyle but he's naturally charismatic, he's very self deprecating, which is an endearing trait to have that sense of humor, and he knows what he's talking about. So for me, he's definitely the person I'm waiting for to retire and show up to talent.

    Comparing pre and post-COVID DPC’s

    BLIX: I want to also cover the DPC because it's not going to exist anymore for next year. That said, it was because of the DPC that some talent that are working nowadays were able to start out in the post-COVID format. How is that going to affect the development of talent going forward with the removal of the DPC?

    Cap: Originally, the idea of the DPC was supposed to create a lot of jobs because originally, every region was supposed to have their own studio, I believe. They were supposed to have a panel on site, which obviously would create a lot more jobs, but then they eased back on that and then eventually, it got to a point where pretty much nobody was doing it. I think Southeast Asia had the only on-site casters for English for that final season of the DPC which, I think, is a damn shame.

    But to be frank, I don't blame any of the tournament organizers for doing that. I think the product was not really a moneymaker and things got incredibly stale both in the games and the setup. But I also think, in some ways, talent also got a bit stale. Tournament organizers have their favorites. They find people they like working with and you almost need to give them a reason to stop working with them or you have to have somebody really good take that person's spot. And I've always been the believer that you want to create space for third-party organizers to do something in this space. It just creates more opportunities and more jobs for people and I hope that is the case with the DPC going away.

    NatTea became one of the many broadcast talent that found their footing through the DPC (Credit: Valve)

    The problem is that we had a relatively healthy third-party system and scene with a fair number of tournament organizers but a lot of those guys are gone. BTS was obviously the one that most people think about. With Russia invading Ukraine, that took away a lot of Ukrainian companies that we would normally work with. At the same time, it also means that a lot of the Russian companies are harder to work with. Nobody's going to Russia and nobody's going to Ukraine so both of those companies are off the list.

    With China, I'm fairly certain they've lost some companies. I have no insider knowledge on that sort of thing but I'm fairly certain there were a lot more tournament organizers five years ago in China. Nowadays, I feel it's probably only Perfect World since they run their servers and stuff, or at least I think that's them. So I'm not sure how many third-parties and I'm not sure how many tournament organizers are gonna come back to Dota. That's the biggest concern for me.

    I think it's better if the third-parties have space and are able to do things, but the damage, in some ways, is already done. Esports is on a downturn so how many people are willing to roll the dice and try to run something in Dota when, historically speaking, it's been a money loser for 90% of the companies, I would say.

    BLIX: With that said, how do you view ESL making their moves with DreamLeague? Back then, DL was only done after DPC and Majors, so with them looking to take a bigger presence, how do you view that?

    Cap: So I love the people that I work with at ESL. There are some Dota people there. What I love about ESL is they have Dota people running the Dota part and I think that creates a really good product and we see it from DreamLeague. I think DreamLeague is one of the best products that Dota has ever had. But as much as I love ESL, what I don't want is ESL to be the only one running the tournaments and I'm not even sure if ESL would want that so it's competition. I've always been a big believer in competition. I think competition makes people sharper. It makes them better when they're competing against someone else. It pushes them.

    When you know somebody's pushing you, it means you have to really make sure you're on your game. You can't just sit back on your laurels so I think it applies stuff to most aspects of life. And I don't know who's going to be pushing ESL. I think DreamLeague is a great product and I have faith that the talent and the people behind the scenes at ESL are going to self-drive to push the product to be better, but you still want competition in there and I just don't know where that's gonna come from.

    BLIX: I want to see how you compare pre-COVID DPC and post-COVID DPC. Which do you find better?

    Cap: So pre-COVID we had the Majors and Minors and that was an interesting idea. I actually did like the concept of the Minors. The problem was that the Majors and Minors got really blurry at some point in time and you couldn't actually tell the difference besides prize pools and some teams. But some Minors had amazing production and really good shows whereas some Majors were pretty shit. It didn't feel like there was actually as much quality control. There was also a s**t ton of them, which I don't mind. I'll never complain about more work. I will always take that.

    I don't know how financially viable it was for the tournament organizers there at the time. I do not mind a developer driven esport but you do have to invest a lot of time and manpower to making a developer driven esport work and I don't think Valve is that company. They're not Riot. They don't have hundreds of employees dedicated just to making Dota 2 esports work, right?

    The DPC saw a multitude of Majors over the years such as the 2021 AniMajor, which was produced by WePlay Studios (Credit: WePlay Studios)

    As brilliant as those guys are at Valve, sometimes you just need grunt power to be able to make certain things happen. So I think it's probably for the best that Valve abandoned the DPC. I 100% agree with their blog that the fact that they blatantly said "things got really pretty s**t." I think Valve definitely could have done a better job because one thing is they could have changed things up faster but I'm glad that they've recognized the fact that it wasn't working and let's not keep going down that path. So there's some major pitfalls to it and we'll see.

    This could all look terrible a year from now, but I don't know. Ultimately, every sport is driven by its player base. If there are enough players who enjoy playing the game, there will be a percent of those people who want to be able to compete and who want to be able to watch other people compete. Dota is gonna keep going for a long time but it might have some big downturns at some point.

    Is Dota really dying?

    BLIX: I've talked to plenty of people in the past including during TI and they have shared their worries about how Dota might be dying. Why is there such a concern for the continuation of Dota and the likelihood, though small, of the game dying?

    Cap: I think those people are validly concerned because Dota is an old game and Valve is just a mystery. We don't know year from year what the next year looks like, right? So every single year, they announce stuff, tournament organizers announce things, they contact people and it's like, "Okay, I've got some jobs. We've got some tournaments. We've got a working esport but we don't know what the year after that looks like," and that naturally creates a lot of concerns and hesitancy from people working in the scene.

    If we had something a lot more long-term guaranteed as in "this is what the next five years are going to look like," it would assuage a lot of fears. But I think people are also naturally pretty reactionary. They see numbers go down and everybody starts freaking out. I'm never that concerned about Dota 2 dying. Dota 2 will get smaller but if we go back to the days of $50,000 prize pool and 10,000 people watching, I'll still be there--or at least I hope I'll still be there. If Dota 2 right now stays the same for the next 20 years, then I'm fine with that. As long as I'm able to financially support myself and do what I love, that's good enough for me. Dota 2 will always be around as long as there's people who play it.

    Looking at the future

    Cap isn’t ready to put a cap on his career just yet (Credit: Valve)

    BLIX: And the game has been around for around 20 years so that's a good indication towards the future. Looking at the future, on a good day, where do you see yourself still doing casting and for how long?

    Cap: It's not about the money, it's about being able to support myself, right? I want to one day be able to own a house, I want to be able to have a backyard and a dog. I don't think those aren't massive greedy dreams. They're just all I kind of need. So as long as I can achieve that, I think I'll keep casting Dota until there's nobody left to watch it. I think one thing about the concept of Dota dying is that Dota fans are hardcore enough that Dota will not die unless something comes along and kills it.

    The MOBA genre is losing interest for sure, but I think Dota fans are pretty hardcore and they love Dota and they stick around to watch Dota for years and years even after they stopped playing. So we'll retain that but what you actually need to kill Dota, and maybe League of Legends too, is you actually need a new genre that has the same sort of appeal that Dota and League of Legends has in MOBA games and actually draws viewership away. Nobody's developing new MOBAs but at the same time, nobody has developed a game that actually appeals to those fans enough to get them away from these big games.

    Still, League of Legends and Dota are still some of the biggest esports in the world, right? You look at us and you look at CSGO and now you've got Valorant, right? That's your big four outside of mobile games. That's another topic entirely. Mobile games are insane. They actually get some insane numbers. I personally can't do it but it is pretty cool to know there's an entire world out there that I'm not familiar with in the esports side.

    BLIX: And one final question just before we wrap it up: If you could take a time machine and go back to the early days of your casting and you could tell your younger self what it is that is to come (and it doesn't just concern you but also for your work and the scene in general), what would that be?

    Cap: There's so many things that I would do if I could go back in time, a lot of them being personal elements. Keeping it purely in my career and my own casting, the advice I would give is probably to slow down a little bit. Take a little bit more time, both inside and outside of the game, to enjoy where you're at and develop yourself a little bit more outside of your effectiveness of being able to call team fights.

    Develop a good duo too. Developing a partnership is super important for me. I work best with other people and I'm terrible at driving myself. I'm not a self-starter when it comes to projects so working with somebody in that regard. And then, I don't know, buy Bitcoin when it's $5 or something and that way I can be rich and just go to every Dota event I ever wanted to for the rest of my life.

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    CS Virtual Trade Ltd, reg. no. HE 389299 Registered address and the principal place of business: 705, Spyrou Araouzou & Koumantarias, Fayza House, 3036, Limassol, Cyprus
    Copyright © 2024 BLIX.GG. All rights reserved.